Your guide to expat life in Thailand

Moving to Thailand

The Kingdom of Thailand welcomes expats with a barrage of new experiences, from its characteristically spicy food to the distinctive Thai language.

If you’re open-minded and adventurous, you should handle the transition well. And your reward will be an invigorating life in a beautiful country full of friendly people. But it’s not all plain sailing. Thailand is prone to natural disasters and has seen a fair amount of political unrest in recent years – so keep your wits about you and stay informed about any potential risks.

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Basic info

  • Population: Around 70 million
  • Capital city: Bangkok (also the largest city)
  • Political system: Constitutional monarchy administered by a military junta
  • Main languages: Thai is the official language, although English is widely understood in tourist areas.
  • Main religion: Buddhism. Other religions include Islam and Christianity.
  • Time: GMT+7
  • Electricity: 220V AC, 50Hz. Plugs have two flat blades, two round pins or two flat blades and a round pin.
  • Currency: Thai baht (THB)
  • International dialling code: +66
  • Internet domain: .th
  • Emergency numbers: 191 (general emergency number), 1155 (tourist police), 1554 (ambulance), 199 (fire)
  • Road traffic: Drives on the left

Next holiday

Oct

13

Passing of His Majesty the Late King

When a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, it moves to the first available weekday.

Public Holidays

2020
1 January New Year's Day
10 February Magha Puja Day*
6 April Chakri Memorial Day
13–15 April Songkran Festival
1 May National Labour Day
6 May Visakha Bucha Day*
28 July His Majesty the King's Birthday
12 August Her Majesty the Queen's Birthday
13 October Passing of His Majesty the Late King
23 October Chulalongkorn Day
5 December His Majesty the Late King's Birthday
10 December Constitution Day
31 December New Year's Eve
2021
1 January New Year's Day
10 February Magha Puja Day*
6 April Chakri Memorial Day
13–15 April Songkran Festival
1 May National Labour Day
26 May Visakha Bucha Day*
28 July His Majesty the King's Birthday
12 August Her Majesty the Queen's Birthday
13 October Passing of His Majesty the Late King
23 October Chulalongkorn Day
5 December His Majesty the Late King's Birthday
10 December Constitution Day
31 December New Year's Eve

Your relocation checklist

Moving to a new country takes a lot of planning. To help you get started, here are some of the things you need to do before you leave home – or just after you arrive.

Key Thai phrases

  • Hello sà-wàt-dee
  • Good evening sà-wàt-dee kráp
  • Goodbye laa gòn ná
  • How are you? sà-baai dee măi
  • Thank you kòb kun
  • Yes châi
  • No mai
  • Do you speak English? pôot ang-grìt dâi măi?
  • Can you help me? chûay nàwy dâai măi?
  • I'm sorry kŏr tôht

Top tips

View a selection of tips sourced from expats about Thailand:

“It can allow you to become more family centred. Enjoy the outdoor lifestyle. You'll find you're healthier, more privileged, more financially independent, and there'll be exciting personal business challenges ahead.” Added by Expat Explorer Survey respondent

“Don't make the decision to move based on your holiday experience! Living in Thailand is completely different to holidaying here. Do your research first.” Added by Expat Explorer Survey respondent

“Use legal firms for visa applications. Travel via coaches, plane or train in the countryside. Taxis are fine in Bangkok etc., but use meter only. The temples are amazing, as are major shopping centres, museums, zoos etc. Find English speaking-Thai friends and they will show you how to enjoy the place much more.” Added by Expat Explorer Survey respondent

“Respect Thai culture and don't show anger.” Added by Expat Explorer Survey respondent

“Try to learn the language and take full advantage of the quality but reasonably priced healthcare.” Added by Expat Explorer Survey respondent

View more hints and tips for Thailand

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However much you think you need to bring with you - don't. Or bring half. What you can get here is either better or cheaper, so not worth the hassle bringing it from home!

Expat Explorer Survey respondent

View more hints and tips for Thailand

Shipping

If you’re shipping goods to Thailand, it’s best to pay a little more for a reputable company and insure the cargo generously. You don’t need to take all your belongings because rented accommodation in Thailand is usually furnished and household goods aren’t expensive.

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Household goods

You’re allowed to bring one sea shipment and one air shipment into the country duty free within six months of your arrival, as long as the goods have been used in your home country for at least six months beforehand. You can’t import household goods earlier than a month before, or later than six months after, you move.

To ship goods duty free, you must have a visa and a work permit, both valid for at least one year. You’ll also need several other documents, including a copy of your passport, copies of the inventory and a bill of lading. The paperwork is complicated – so most expats use a professional shipping company.

Pets

If you want to take a pet to Thailand you have to make sure they’re microchipped and have up-to-date vaccination records. Animals also need a pet passport or a permit from the country’s Department of Livestock Development. Quarantine isn’t mandatory as long as the arrival official is happy that all the paperwork is in order.

Prohibited goods

Items that can’t be brought into Thailand include arms and ammunition, pornographic literature, short-wave radios and inflammable goods. There are also restrictions on alcohol, food and plants. While importing cars and motorbikes isn’t prohibited, it’s subject to hefty customs duties.

All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by expatarrivals.com, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in October 2020. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

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